By Aaron Gaglia (@GagliaAC)
Last week I had the privilege to interview Luis Moreno Ocampo, the former first prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. Ocampo was the man who prosecuted Omar al-Bashir for the massive atrocities he committed in Darfur. Naturally, I was eager to hear his thoughts on President Obama’s invitation of Nafie Ali Nafie, the former Sudanese Chief of National Intelligence and Security Services/advisor to Bashir. Nafie is a war criminal that is responsible for setting up unofficial detention and torture chambers called “ghost houses”.
Ocampo stated that the invitation is not the main issue but Obama’s policy is the main issue. “What will be the Obama policy to stop the crimes in the South and to stop the genocide in Darfur? …The issue is not to stop the invitation. The issue is how to solve the conflict because maybe Nafie Ali Nafie could be a solution depending on the policy. I believe we need a new Obama policy,” he said.
The main problem is not the invitation but “what Washington will say to Nafie Ali Nafie.” A genocide is happening while Obama is in office, and as the head of a very powerful nation, the president has an obligation to do something. “He was so vocal about Darfur that he needs to do something before he ends his tenure. So the time is now.,“ Ocampo explained.
President Obama and the international community needs to realize that what is happening in Sudan is still genocide even though it is not as visible as the situations in Syria and Korea.
“Basically, it’s an ongoing genocide. The judges decided that the evidence was enough to prove that what happened in the camps is genocide. You don’t need to kill with bullets because the condition of life is such that they are trying to eliminate a group. And I think because the genocide in Darfur is silent, people are dying by starvation and rape, the world is ignoring it because Obama is talking about chemical weapons in Syria. Why is it different if massive atrocities are committed by chemical weapons or massive atrocities committed by starvation, or massive atrocities committed by rape? Why is it different? The issue is there are people being killed.” Genocide is genocide no matter the method used. Obama and the international community must not ignore genocide in Sudan because of other more visible atrocities in the world. Furthermore, ignoring the situation is not only bad for the victims being killed but also for the negative example of political will it presents.
“Ignoring one conflict is not improving the second conflict, it’s making it worse because people say, “Ok the good strategy to survive is Bashir. Keep fighting, keep killing and then you will survive.” And that’s the lesson being received in Syria and in Korea. So that’s why a good case against one of them will make a big case for the others.”
Towards the end of the interview, I asked Ocampo about the efficacy of the ICC. He said it is very effective yet it also presents a large game changer in our world. It shifts law from merely a national setting to an international setting. He used the analogy of football to illustrate this change. “Imagine if suddenly the rules for football changed and the quarterback can kick the ball with his feet. So it would be a different game. That’s ICC, it’s not just what the quarterback is doing, it’s how the game changes, how the other players change… It is a very primitive system, that’s why we need to build it.” The ICC was created to deal with an increasingly globalized and international world brought about by the advent of the Internet and other technologies. The ICC is still a very young organization and is still learning how to effectively function in our global world.
The words of Luis Moreno Ocampo are encouraging for us who are working for global peace. Though the world is a crazy and scary place, more and more people want peace. May we continue to pressure our leaders and develop our global institutions to create a world where massive atrocities are not tolerated. But first we shall see if President Obama’s talks with Sudan are a step in this direction: towards peace.